This Shabbat we will read, Mikketz, my Bar Mitzvah Torah portion from 35 years ago. Joseph is asked to interpret to Pharaoh what his dream of seven fat cows eating seven lean cows and seven fat ears of grain swallowing seven lean ears of grain means. Joseph explains that there will be seven years of great harvests followed by seven years of famine. Joseph advises Pharaoh to “appoint officials over the land and prepare the land of Egypt during the seven years of plenty. And let them collect all the food of these coming good years…”
Joseph had the ability to interpret the signs in Pharaoh’s dreams and advise Pharaoh on what actions he should take to protect his citizens.
For our community, interpreting data, rather than dreams, will be so important in the months ahead. In early 2018, the Federation will release the findings from our latest Jewish community study. It will provide the Federation, our community agencies and synagogues with data points such as the numbers of Jews in Greater Pittsburgh, where they live, what their financial security is like, and about their Jewish connectedness. When we learn these facts, the question will be whether we will we do as Joseph and Pharaoh and develop a strategy, or do we “put our heads in the sand”? Will we realize that our community today does not look exactly like the community of 2002 when we last conducted a study?
Let’s get ready to not be defensive, but to be reflective and action oriented. Our Pittsburgh Jewish future will take more than a Chanukah miracle or even a dream. It will take strategy and actions informed by solid data that may result in doing things differently than we have done in the past.
Shabbat Shalom. Happy Chanukah. Go Steelers!
P.S. I want to encourage everyone to especially consider end of the year giving given both the growth in the stock market and potential tax changes in the coming year. One tool you can use is a Donor Advised Fund (aka Philanthropic Fund) in our Jewish Community Foundation. One can transfer appreciated securities or cash directly into a fund where you maintain a right to recommend where donations will go in the future. You get an immediate tax deduction in this current tax year (and if you transfer appreciated securities, there is no capital gains tax to be paid). Please call our expert Foundation staff: Dan Brandeis at (412) 992-5220 or Sharon Perelman at (412) 992-5224. And make sure to consult your own financial/tax adviser.